My sister sat quietly as I sobbed and sniffed. She had been witnessing my unraveling for about 47 minutes. Her expressionless face did not provide solace, she did not appear to be moved or sympathetic. She just sat there and listened, as she often did.
I was not sad about anything in particular, just everything. In the span of 47 minutes I managed to revisit all the muck I had been sifting through for the past eighteen months. I replayed the heartbreaks and the anticlimactic goodbyes. I recalled the dreams and offerings that had fallen flat in my business; glazing over the victories, not because I discounted my successes, but simply because my discomfort was so loud. I looked back on the countless hours I’d spent meditating and journaling. I thought about all the no’s that were once yes’s. I combed through all the behaviors and patterns that were now memories of a used-to-be me.
I honestly did not know how to be in this space, void of emotional clutter. There was nothing to hold onto and I hated the way this felt, foreign and completely unfamiliar.
I felt lonely and isolated, desolate and spent, emotional exhaust is the most intense kind of fatigue. But this is self-love. This is shadow side of self-love, the part that nobody talks about.
Everybody has a schtick about self-love these days. They say that you cannot fully love another unless you love yourself first. They say self-love is the appreciation of yourself. They say that when you love yourself you accept your shortcomings and embrace your weaknesses. They say that you feel better when you love yourself. They say that you make better choices and meet the right people when you love you.
But what they aren’t saying is that self love is not easy, painless, or instant. They do not tell you that it’s messy and often traumatic. Before you can begin loving yourself you have to sift through your bullshit. You have to get real with yourself, while holding yourself doggedly accountable for everything that you have invited into your life. Accepting the truth that you had a hand in the heartbreaks and disappointments that gutted you is shitty at best, and devastating at worst.
Another thing they do not tell you is loving yourself means learning something you were never taught. At birth you were indifferent to self-love, you had no concept of what it meant to love you. Love is something you learned through your environment, the same place where you learned who everyone expected you to be. Everything you know about love, relationships, and relating to yourself and others, was modeled for you first. Problem is, your role models were wounded. So they unwittingly taught you how to be wounded too. But they did not teach you how to love yourself, and how could they when they didn’t love themselves?
You were likely introduced to the concept of self-love well into adulthood. Long after you had formed the dysfunctional patterns and behaviors that have wreaked havoc in your life. You quickly learned that one of the core tenants in self-love is boundaries. That means that you have to set some clear perimeters for people, which is no big deal, except for the fact that the people you love also require boundaries.
It doesn’t take long before you realize that the people you love do not really like boundaries. They do not like it when you tell them no. They like you much better when you go along to get along. And so you relapse, over and over again.
You have never enjoyed being treated poorly, but at least you knew what to expect. The uncertainty that comes with loving yourself can be unnerving, and that’s why you backpedal so often.
Loving yourself can be lonely because you do not know enough people who really love themselves. And so your circle of friends shrinks. The dating pool dries up. Your food choices seem limited. The places you used to go no longer do it for you. What used to be fun just isn’t fun anymore, and self-help is not your ideal form of entertainment.
How long does it take before self-love feels expansive?
Will it always feel like this much work?
And where in the hell is this “tribe” that they keep talking about?
The short answer is this… it will take how long it takes. It will not always feel like a lot of work. And you will find your tribe when you stop looking for it.
Self-love is a lifelong journey. There is no finish line. The way you love yourself will change over time, like you do, but it will get easier. The more you practice loving yourself the more effortless it becomes. You will be able to say no without apology. And the more comfortable you get the more likeminded people you will attract. You will recognize your tribe by the way you feel, and they will recognize you too.
Self-love is the long game… you got to be in it to win it.
What challenges you have faced on the road to